Mathew Gillies takes flight after steeples victory

JAMIE SEARLE
Last updated 05:00 20/05/2014

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Jockey Mathew Gillies quickly changed and headed to Invercargill airport after winning the 108th running of the Great Western Steeplechase at Riverton aboard Keep It Tight yesterday.

Gillies lives in Palmerston North and expected to be home by 10pm last night. The rider works in the Bulls stable of Central Districts horseman Kevin Myers.

Keep It Tight used to be trained by Myers before he sent him to Invercargill trainer Kelly Thompson midway through last season. Gillies, who rode Keep It Tight to win at Riverton on May 1, felt vast improvement in him yesterday.

"He got in close to a couple, but he got over them OK," Gillies said.

Keep It Tight galloped clear in the home straight to win by 11 lengths from the Myers-trained McCulley, with three-quarters of a length to Power Pack in third.

Gillies gained the rides on Thompson's jumpers at Riverton through Jo Rathbone, who is the foreman at Myers' Bulls stable. Rathbone has ridden three Great Western winners, including Thompson's Lautenschlager in 2012.

"Jo got me the rides," Gillies said. "You know when you're on Kelly's and Kevin's horses that they are fit and well-schooled."

Gillies flagged away race riding last winter because of increasing weight and injuries. Instead, he worked for a Goulburn trainer in New South Wales. He entered the employ of Myers three months ago.

The jockey has made a spectacular return to jumps riding winning yesterday's feature and the Waikato Steeplechase on Palemo on Saturday. His next day of race-riding is at Hastings on Thursday.

Keep It Tight provided Thompson with his fifth Great Western win, following on from Lautenschlager (2012), Kakapuka (2011), Possum Canyon (1996) and Belsen's Bank (1983).

"I'm getting a bit of a stranglehold on the race . . . I've won three of the last four," Thompson quipped.

Keep It Tight is owned by Thompson, Riverton Racing Club committee members Brian McLean and Tommy White, and Barry McLaughlin, Alison Clearwater and Pam Gare, of Invercargill.

jamie.searle@stl.co.nz

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- Fairfax Media

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